Altium Designer vs. Orcad PCB Designer Professional

Update 2018-10-22
A lot has changed after I initially created this post. Therefore I am updating this article so you have more accurate information. – Robert

Many people ask if they should go for Altium or OrCAD. My answer is … it depends.

1) My personal opinion
Personally I love Altium Designer more than OrCAD from Cadence. Altium is a complete package – you have everything in one place from schematic, libraries, pcb, output documents. It is also very intuitive and user friendly. Altium is the software what I have and use in my company (I also have OrCAD Professional, but I have not had the right project for it yet). HOWEVER, if I had a bigger team e.g. 3 and more HW engineers, I would seriously consider to go for OrCAD, see the next point.

2) Price point of view
Altium Designer is getting more and more expensive (I think it is around 10 000 USD or even more, correct me if I am wrong) and OrCAD can be interesting from price point of view. Based on the information I have, OrCAD Professional starts at $2K (for a standalone license) and includes advanced features. The OrCAD Professional has everything what you need for designing any board (you can use OrCAD Professional to design complex and advanced boards).

So, if your budget is limited, the 2k OrCAD Professional is perfect choice. Or, if your team is bigger, OrCAD can make sense. You only buy a few expensive licenses and a lot of work can be done with cheap $443 license (I think that is current price for OrCAD Standard). Disadvantage of OrCAD is, that you may need some time to get used to it and they still need to improve some stuff. But I know they are working on it …

Still, if you have for example 3 engineers, that would be like 6k vs 30k for buying the software … big difference, and I would go for Cadence, even it is not as nice and easy to use as Altium (Altium has some cheaper options like CircuitStudio, but I would not go that way).

3) Big board design & Simulations
If your designs are based on big boards (e.g. server boards) or if you require simulations, definitely go for Cadence. This will cost you more money, but everything works together e.g. you can add info into schematic or into PCB and this info can be transferred and used in simulation. Cadence simulations are really good, Altium is not good in simulation. Also, a lot of big boards have reference designs in Cadence, this can save you a lot of time and money.

4) Your boards are used in mechanical complex design
In this case, consider Altium. I talked to some engineers who use Altium, because it helps them to work closely with mechanical guys.

5) Learning for future
If you are planning to be a hardware design engineer, learn both softwares

I am not sure if these points will help you, or they will confuse you even more 😀

PS: Non of these companies is paying me, nor Altium nor Cadence, but I do have some free licenses from them.

Original post 2013-06-19
Some people ask for my opinion about Orcad PCB Designer Professional as an Altium Designer alternative.

I have to admit, I have never tried the new
Orcad PCB Designer software (Added a note: I have used the previous combination: Orcad + Allegro L/XL for 5 years), but I spoke to a Cadence guy in February at Embedded world exhibition about it. I was initially impressed with the 3000 EUR (or it was something similar) for the Orcad. The Orcad Professional price was comparable with Altium Designer.

But …

… when we went into more details, the Orcad PCB Designer Professional started looking to me more like a trap. Don’t forget, once you start using it, it’s very difficult to move to a different software. And if your company grows and you do more and more complex boards, you may very easily find the limits of Orcad Professional. That day, when I was leaving the Cadence stand, the conclusion was: I would need to pay at least 25000 EUR for the configuration which can be used for professional HW design + around 20% fees every year.

You can easily compare Orcad PCB Designer Standard / Professional and Allegro Designer by yourself in this document (or see the original here). As you can see, Orcad Standard doesn’t even include Differential pair routing (essential for any board), and Orcad Professional doesn’t have Propagation delay rules (essential for memory layout).

So, if you want to use the Orcad PCB Designer for all your future designs and you are sure you are not going to design any boards with differential pairs or memories – go for it. If you are planning to do layout professionally and you are planning to grow and design more and more complex boards, be sure you have considered all the option and made the right decision.

Note: This is not an advert for Altium. Even I use Altium a lot, it’s because it’s still a good software for a good price. Of course, this may change soon – if it does, be sure I will write and article about it. To make it even – for example I don’t like all the new Online Altium stuff. I am very suspicious, that the company wants us to become depended on their online services and later pay high subscriptions for using them (this is my personal opinion – and hopefully I am wrong :). Once you become depended, they can do with the price anything – it will be very hard and costly to move to a different software / system / solution. That’s the reason why I don’t use Vaults and any other Altium online service.

64 thoughts on “Altium Designer vs. Orcad PCB Designer Professional

  1. what about kicad? Numato ( made a 7-layer board for a design consisting of a pic32 and an fpga. Let us know your opinion about this open-source pcb software


    1. the last nightly build has a lot of improvements than the stable release. The software appears now with less bugs and I’m using it for standard circuits with mixed signal design up to 4 layers without problems. I think the fresh support for python scripts help a lot to add plugins(to export/import operations). The new View for the PCB layout and the OpenGL render it’s a very nice improvements when a first visual inspection is necessary(Finally the Solder Mask is been shown correctly on the 3D view.)
      The little Calculator into the main Kicad menu is awesome than the previous version, it helps a lot to handle the dimension of vias tracks and useful things even for microwave and stripline tracks.
      Ok respect than the professional tools it’s a good compromise “no-money/less features”.

      The learning curce of KiCAD is faster than the professional tools we know, because of the less feature that KiCAD has.

      Some lacks has to be covered,
      in my opinion it’s necessary:

      – improve the BOM generation with a better interface almost as the OrCAD-Capture does. Changing every components footprint or some things in one time would be better.
      – Adding lot of standard footprints. Actually the footprint base for schematic and PCB are not huge.

      – Autorouter? I don’t use autorouter but for some things it coulds help. it’s not an easy task to implement I admit.

      – the possibility to duplicate part of PCB layout to implement classic multichannel circuits (it’s not Zuken sorry). Replication of the PCB for the same schematic-block lot of times can be a waste of time and a potential mess.

      – Gerber file generation is very good. Every manifacturer I sent gerber file didn’t have problems for the generated RS274X and it’s ok. A little thing I think is the possiblity to help Panelize board.

      For RF design frankly KiCAD it’s not good(at the moment) because it’s impossible to manage differential pairs and impedance matching at runtime. No calculation is possible during PCB routing. the Microwave buttons available on the PCBNew tool is absolutely not helpful. Probably with python-scripts available with the integrated consolle is the escape way.

      The most important things to consider is that currently most of tasks has to be done by hands. Making automated script (i.e. python) probably it’s a workaround to avoid lot of modification at KiCAD’s source code side.

      I ‘m using KiCAD since three years to design boards with microcontrollers and analog circuits, first releases apart now it’s usable for a little company.

      Probably the development team of KiCAD are working hard, the last nightly is been changing a lot than the stable release.
      the future I think for it is good.

      KiCAD is an open software. the worth of it is that.

      p.s.: I installed last nightly build downloading the “kicad-winbuilder” suite that compiles the newest source tarball available automatically. high quality 3D footprints are available at the “smisioto” internet site and lot of components are available at kicad-library.


      1. KiCad is improving fast, and now has an interactive router and differential routing. There is new stable release sometime in mid 2015. But Kicad hasn’t got an auto-router.


    2. KiCad is improving fast, and now has an interactive router and differential routing. There is new feature stable release sometime in mid 2015. But Kicad hasn’t got an auto-router. Which is what I’m looking for now …


  2. Since release of Altium Designer 2013 Vaults are not connected with Subscription anymore in terms of functionality and company Vault don’t need to be online. A company can buy infinite license of the Vault Server or to have Personal Vault for free. The license model has changed to purchasing seats so it is the same like AD. Personal Vault is limited to 3 seats (people connected in the same time and there are no access control functions – who can do what, everybody is “administrator/root”). Vault Subscription means you can have access to newer versions of the Vault in the future but it is very rare to upgrade data management systems usually. When AD Subscription or Vault Subscription expires, nothing will change.

    BTW I can say the Vaults have changed a lot to be more user friendly. I am slightly changing my opinion on it. We will see what happens in next couple of months/years with this system but it is at least more promising than in the past.


    1. Thank you very much Petr for a great comment. I had a look at Altium website, but could find any information about how much the Vault cost per person 😦

      Your information, that Personal vault is limited by 3 seats is very important. Thank you for sharing.


  3. Now a days ,..orcad provide a propagation delay calculation ,..which is available in the schematics properties ,..And the Routing Algorithm of ORCAD are Awesome And fast,…for PCB,…But Altium is more user-friendly And GUI supportive.


  4. Hello Robert, good article though I feel OrCAD is not being shown here with completely correct statements. Pretty much all of the PCB tools that exist in the world can handle almost any design. Altium do a fantastic job of spreading their message but without a direct comparison it’s in the realms of personal opinion. Do you know of anyone experienced enough with Altium that would be happy to do a video with us comparing functions? I think it would be useful to have a fair comparison in detail. Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Samsung, Amazon, NVIDIA, ARM, all use the PCB Editor that is found in any level of any Cadence PCB tool (OrCAD and Allegro) since 16.2. If you search youtube for “allegro vs orcad” you will find the video where a diff pair is routed with all 4 main levels of PCB editor including standard, you simply get more control and feedback depending on which level you choose. Have a great day let me know if you fancy doing a fun online shootout video Altium vs Cadence. We are ready if you are. Simon


    1. Hello Simon. Thank you very much for your comment.

      The full version of Cadence Allegro is the best professional tool for PCB layout – no doubts (I used Allegro in my previous job) and therefore it is used by the biggest companies (most of the reference boards are in orcad and allegro brd files).

      The question is, how good or how comfortable is to use this software when it’s functionality is limited – is it still the best, is it ok, is it frustrating?

      It is a good idea to compare Altium vs. Orcad Standard / Professional. I am actually curious about the results as I was interested to buy a licence – that’s why I asked on the exhibition. I would be interested to make a video about it.

      I checked the video you mentioned about diff pairs:

      It’s exactly as I thought it will be.

      – Robert


  5. if you have never used orcad why post this, you can’t say Orcad vs Altium.
    every software is the best in the eye of the user..


    1. Hi,
      I have used Orcad for 5 years at my previous job. I just have not tried the exact new versions (Orcad PCB Designer / Professional).

      Hmm, you are right, this is not clear from the first sentence.
      Have a very nice day. Robert


  6. Hi,
    But what about Schematic Electrical Rule check.. i.e. if u have left any pin of any IC or any component unconnected but visually it shows connected but net wise it is nt…
    and after routing PCB and fabricating it u ll come to know dat it is anschematic error…
    is der any solution for dis in altium like on orcad….???
    bcoz after reading ur articles and watching ur tutorial I tried Altium & I traped into this


    1. YES. While you are on schematics, Click Project >> Project options. Select the connection Matrix. On the last column you can select the error/warning for unconnected objects. Once you have done that, Click Project >> Compile Project. It will report error if any pins or nets left unconnected (under messages).
      (I had the same problem. Looking at the schematic everything looks fine but on the PCB the pin is not connected to any net)


  7. ​I’m a long term Orcad (<=16.2) user. Main Allegro/Orcad PCB gripes
    is a terrible CAD implementation in regards to mechanics and footprints.
    I always end up calculating coordinate and entering them. Pain in the
    a**e. In my version, DXF import is almost impossible to get to accept
    anything. So no big help there…
    I find it pathetic that
    differential routing, delay matching, and basic database functionality is so expensive – but I guess
    they need a significant leverage for selling the expensive versions (for now I just work a little harder/manually while missing the features). And
    I do not understand why panelization requires 3000USD+ tools. In my
    humble opinion it should be possible in any tool!
    ​​​​​I did not have the
    time for evaluating Altium just yet – but compared to a simple Orcad version upgrade
    (I suspect the 16.2 is a lemon!) it's a quite expensive venture (both a
    ​​​ctually) for a semi-pro amateur
    user like me…. But I think I'd recommend anyone starting from scratch to check out the alternatives; at that point I think the basic Orcad and Altium packages are comparable investment wise! 😉


    1. Thank you very much Gnyff for leaving your opinion. Sometimes I believe it could be done a better way, if managers in these companies are not only after money, but also try to understand and help people who use thier products. Thats what Altium used to be …


      1. ​Robert, thanks for your original post! 🙂

        I (maybe naively) think all of the surviving companies try to do the best for their
        users in terms of functionality. Simply because “that’s good for
        everything” (including business). The pricing structures in general is
        another story
        ​ ​- as are the evil scheme of changing format compatibility with every new version
        ​! >:-(​
        have no idea of the market or profits – but from my little corner it
        seems all the big players are loosing a huge market in small businesses
        and advanced amateurs.

        Right now I’m just insanely unhappy with
        the amount of time I’m spending on making standard footprints (because
        the ones available online and from colleagues are all in 16.3+ format
        that my old package can’t read)-:
        ​ ​But extra time spent is not making direct red numbers in the bank account – just preventing black ones… 😉

        By the way: A (in my opinion) very important aspect in selecting CAD packages is what others use. It’s immensely
        ​ ​useful
        to be able to borrow design blocks (both schematics and layouts) and
        verified footprints from colleagues and vendors. I.e. if designing
        around the Ti AM335x processor, schematics and PCB layout are available (beagle bone) in Orcad format (but “naturally” only in version 16.3 😉


      2. “I (maybe naively) think all of the surviving companies try to do the best for their users in terms of functionality. Simply because “that’s good for everything” (including business). ”
        – I think, there are two factors: 1) it’s very hard to understand customers and give them what they want – it really needs very clever people to decide 2) every day I have to talk to people who only go to work to get their salary by the end of the month.

        Compatibility: I personally think, they do it intentionally, so you need to keep buying updates 🙂 But I may be wrong 🙂

        Losing business: Honestly, I believe, many people from corporation management dont care about future, they care about “this quarter” to fill their numbers in excel sheet. One of the things how they do it, is to milk the current customers. They dont see the long term effect, that this may actually lead to losing thier customers in few years – or .. they probably see it, but they dont care as they probably will not be there anyway.

        What other companies use: I agree, I also always ask for Orcad version of reference schematic. Otherwise I dont use the chip.


  8. Robert!

    The chart which you referred to clearly has a tick mark for Interactive Delay Tuning for Orcad PCB Designer Professional package.

    Why are you saying that Orcad Professional doesn’t have Propagation delay rules?


  9. Also, let me tell you, that Automatic Length matching in Altium pretty much sucks. Altium a lot of times simply CAN NOT normally adjust length of many lines even when there is enough space around!

    I used Allegro PCB before, and this feature there works like magic. A lot of times it manages to make right length adjustments even in an areas where one would think it is impossible. And it does it quickly. You will never see that kind of quality in Altium.

    I never used Altium before, barely now I just taped out one board, and it is just horrible experience. Altium looks to me like a Pro PCB package for poor, you get what you payed for.


    1. I agree, Altium length matching is not good (I dont use it), and I agree, Allegro PCB is an excelent tool for PCB layout (but much more expensive comparing to Altium). The thing is, HW design is not only about length matching and Altium is really good in some other things (e.g. schematic browsing or component managment such BOMs & Variants).

      I have used couple of different CAD systems and as the total price/performance ratio, Altium is still the best one – but lets see for how long. They increased price quite a lot and some of their version are extremelly buggy – sometimes I really think they are testing how patient their users are 😉


  10. “HW design is not only about length matching” Thanks, I know what HW design is about.

    Altium sucks at schematic browsing. As simple as that. One of the big reasons is limited focus when some window is open, for example during a search of components.

    BOM management, well… what a feature! I mean come on, its a simple feature which MUST be supported by ANY software calling itself a PCB software.

    Altium is best according to price performance? – NO. It is NOT. It depends on a project. Orcad Professional or Allegro cost more, but on the long run, it makes SAVES you money.

    Altium is terrible, its multi routing is incredibly slow! When you have >300 components on PCB and lots of vias around selecting several vias/objects takes roughly about 1 second delay! (seriously?)

    Selecting objects a lot of times pops out clarification window, EVEN if you PRECISELY clicked on an object’s center. (Annoying!)

    What kind of performance are you talking about?

    The only performance I see in Altium is in its marketing videos on youtube. And some other videos pimped and “supported” by Altium. That’s about it.

    Altium is nothing but an expensive toy soft for freelancers.

    For those who want to get serious PCB done RIGHT, one of the great options is full or yearly license for Allegro OR an affordable OrCAd professional.

    Altium is a joke.


  11. I also forgot to tell about the fact that in order to get anything obvious and simple done in Altium you have to be a swcripting wizard! Seriously! For example to allow vias inside pads, and at the same time have same net constraint between vias and pads. In that case you have to create customized rules. OrCad PCB handles that NICELY without ANY scripting or wasting time (money?) on how to set it up properly!

    Altium also CAN NOT handle SAME NET trace-to-trace constraint normally! It just cant do that! Look for one of the feature request threads on their forum for copper-to-copper clearance and you’ll know what it all is about. Again..Orcad handles that just nicely, its a matter of several clicks for setting your nice custom same-net rules (or copper-copper rules).

    Altium canot handle No connects easily! For example, in Orcad I could mark pin as NC, and it transfered to layout as NC, and never popped up as an DRC error for the branch called “unconnected pins”. In Altium, I have to explicitly put a script in query which would mark pins as NC in case if I want to run NC rule against other pins.

    It’s all BS. Performance and productivity in Altium equals ZERO.

    Altiums overpriced tech support sucks as well. Every time someone joins my session to give me live support wastes like 20 minutes of his time, then he tells me that he has to call his manager who would definitely be able to help. then manager comes in, starts messing with stuff (another 10 to 15 minutes), and then he just tells you that it is impossible to do and if I really want to do it I have to request it as a feature…what a BS! (I had tech support figuring out issues described above).

    Robert.. You have nice tutorials about this soft etc. But seriously, this soft sucks. As simple as that, whoever wants productivity and performance should avoid Altium as plague.


    1. Hi AnalogZombie.
      first of all I am biased because I work for re-seller of Altium. But I would like to say something to your comments. You are right in some facts definitely but not in all. You simply don’t have enough experience in using AD to solve some tasks and from the comments I would say you are not willing to find solution/way how to deal with it. It can easily happen when you must migrate to another software with another philosophy. Something what seems to be simple for me and probably for Robert also seems to be terribly hard for you and in opposite also. Give it some time. Try to not point everything what seems to be wrong to you and focus to the finding the way which will bring you to the goal. I believe it will be more comfortable for you.
      My personal view on your comments: Bugs. yes, there are bugs in AD. Length matching, yes, there are issues but I would say not in finding space for accordions but in algorithm used for calculations of the length (T junctions, overlapped tracks), improvements there would help a lot. Browsing schematics is comfortable for me. For many tasks you don’t need to open any window. Have you used Navigator panel? You probably didn’t because you are using your own approach for searching components. BOM management is must. Definitely. But the one used in AD goes one step further, fetching BOM to Excel templates including with stock information from big suppliers (this saves you time). But you probably don’t know all features of Altium BOM management and you are just satisfied with the way you know, with standard BOM. So you don’t see any difference.
      Selecting objects can take some time because opened panel windows are fetched with information about all these objects you selected. I am sometime really surprised how many discussions are about delays below 1 second but I understand it is about personal opinion. Clarification window can be disabled since 14.3, you just didn’t find this option in Preferences. It is not disabled by default just because of keeping everything the same way for old AD users. Most people don’t like changes in user interface.
      Customized rules are everywhere. You just selected one thing which is not that easy in AD, it says nothing about system quality. I understand you probably don’t know how to use query language now but it is very flexible once you find how to work with that. Yes same net track-track clearance is missing feature in AD.
      NC pins are marked with NoERC marks in AD. There is also special tool for that in schematics. You tried approach from your previous CAD system to change pin type what is not correct way how to deal NC pins in AD and because of that it is not comfortable.
      Tech support depends on people. It is impossible to know everything and to complain about minutes is ridiculous. Some companies let me know they were waiting for response from their previous CAD vendor for weeks and months, yes including OrCAD.

      That is it. Comparisons are not objective and are not easy to do. Everybody of us has different experience, knowledge and taste for change of habits. Robert is talking about his personal view. You should try to give it a chance because the error could probably be not in the tool but in the way how you try to use it.


  12. Can anybody please tell a clear cut answer which is good software for the purpose..Altium or Orcad or Tina pro 9 Industrial..because I have all the 3 above & now which 1 i should use…please avoid debates/lectures…just tell which one is better in all respect..thank you..


  13. Kaustav Kar , of Course Orcad if one compares it with Altium. (I have not used Tina).

    What I like about Orcad:

    + FAST response in all common used actions (copy, drag, popup propertiest etc etc)

    + Smooth routing

    + very flexible DRC checking which won’t require you to spend weeks for query coding like Altium (and even with queries some features in Altium DRC are still not available)

    + flexible Gerber generation options

    I also see some Altium sales guy’s comments below claiming that its probably my poor experience with Altium what matters. But that sales guy doesn’t take into account the fact that Altium’s higher level support team struggled and failed to complete the required actions I was talking about. Now what? It means that Altium people also have poor experience with Altium? Don’t you find it ridiculous? (At least? Maybe?)

    Of course, when someone needs to transfer real quick to another CAD and complete project within shortest amount of time, he usually won’t be that comfortable. But as for me, I had similar situation with Orcad when I started with it. However, after 2 weeks I could set up any flexible rules I want, and use the most important features of it without any problems! With Altium? No… every time some annoying stuff pops out.

    PetrTos, So you think that by throwing all kinds of general and math functions in Query language and providing it to me you are giving me a great and powerful tool?
    HELLO??? THIS IS A PCB SOFTWARE! Just give me a tool with proper and good user interface to get the job done quickly without learning your custom useless query language! atanh() is not freaking helpful to get the proper PCB layout job done! The CAD was supposed to be smart and designed with people who actually taped out at least couple PCBs?

    You cannot just throw collection of generic functions, building bricks, components, and then expect people to spend their valuable time to getting stuff customized in a proper way! Your software MUST DO THIS!

    In Orcad, with minimum or no coding/scripting one can set up rules for a very picky fab and pretty complex board, in Altium? lol… Altium does not even properly handle same net rules, just forget that!

    And reminder, altium is *SLOW*, yes it is! Things do not work fast there! As simple as that!

    Of course, Altium probably still has its niche, but it is definitely not a tool for serious projects. Its team is completely incompetent. And the software itself is OVERPRICED! For what it offers and for its quality it is terribly expensive!

    At least I am glad that when i used Altium it was not me who payed for license, it would be devastating to trash $7k in such a way :),


  14. AnalogZombie who have pissed you off?

    an attitude – eeh….

    can you say such bullshit, when thousands of people are using Altium everyday
    (Including me), as there professional EDA tool?

    We have
    changed from Orcad to Altium, because of the unnecessary complex ability, which
    Orcad brings.

    still I don’t go spitting dirt, like I was paid by Altium to tell that Orcad

    I must
    say I see EDA-Tools as an religion, which also are very hard to migrate from.

    – Who do you think you are, playing the know it all guy – I wouldn’t care 1
    sec. of the details you write, because of the way you do it – respect to both
    tool, but a good laugh of you?

    you get a very good deal on your maintenance, for stabbing people…

    not saying that some of the things is not right, just saying that I could not
    care less because of the way you write it!



  15. LineToThe18,

    > “Howcan you say such bullshit, when thousands of people are using Altium everyday
    (Including me), as there professional EDA tool?”

    Thousands of people are also using Arduino… Now what? Thousands of people are using Kicad… so? What’s the logic?

    > “We havechanged from Orcad to Altium, because of the unnecessary complex ability, which Orcad brings.”

    Sorry, that didn’t make sense to me either. Define unnecessary complex ability? Either something is wrong with your logic, or that sentence was not written in English. I didn’t know that because of complex abilities which CAD provides people switch off from it. Sounds pro…

    All in all, I addressed specific points, you addressed…I don’t know what you addressed? 🙂

    Have fun!


      1. So you only use interactive router or manual router? I’m looking for EDA with best assisted/guided autorouter


      2. Chendy, Orcad PCB/Allegro, has amazing autorouter. It really works well and with proper placement it does great job. Unlike Altium’s “autorouter” (which is reason no one is maybe using it…even Robert Feranec lol)


    1. Cadence has the best router which is essentially and evolved version of Cooper & Chyan’s Specctra. Only one other autorouter is worth using and it is a clone of the Cadence tool.


  16. I am just looking at a “lowish” cost pcb design software (up to £500). I used to layout boards using black sticky (thin) tapes ! But to me it seems a nightmare to find a good all round package. The boards I will be laying out (for a company with no experience) will not be complex, maybe at most 10 IC’s, 2 layers. But there are so many packages, with different options, and costs, that a discussion like this is invaluable – you gain a lot by reading different peoples’ opinions. Thanks.


      1. Hi Robert,
        Thanks for sharing your work!
        i’m student,and i’m learning everything from you,i dont know how you calculate some value like bypass capacitor,filter,ferrite etc…
        if you have prepare a file can i get it
        thanks,and sorry for my bad english


  17. Altium may be a great software but its distributor CAD Microsolutions is a totaly incompetent in terms of customer services and their way of handling Altium distribution in Canada is horrible as far as I have experienced. It is 9 days that I have requested a a student license and they denied it despite me being a student. All my communications were through university email and I sent them my student ID card with latest sticker, they emailed me first that the card photo is old and I should send new card and later they wrote this:

    “We have also reviewed your other validation that you have provided and although you are a student at the University of Calgary, you are going for your PhD in Philosophy – is this correct?” In other words they interpreted the PhD in my university webpage as doctorate of Philosophy and as they understood someone studying Philosophy and not Electrical engineering and computer science (so much of logic and understanding) They later emailed me this:

    “it sounds as if you are going to be using your student license of Altium for commercial purposes. This is also against the requirements of owning a student license of Altium” In other words they predicted that I may do something illegal in future and denied the license. After 9 days and me complaining to Altium of they attitude and discrimination the CAD Microsolution President Darren Gornall which the day before had called me and arrogantly ordered me to listen while he is talking and saying he wants to help me and doing me a favor sent the an email mentioning article 1.25 of Academic use or basically doing the bullying again and reluctantly agreeing with the student license which obviously I declined to accept after 9 days of suffering and harassment.

    Don’t know if Altium agrees with this treatment but being a Monopoly in Canadian market has made CAD microsolution a hazard for Altium society in Canada and the way they treat students is totally unacceptable. I now forced to look at Eagle or Orcad for my hardware implementation of my Thesis (indoor positioning cooperative algorithms) and have very negative bias towards Altium in Canada and CAD microsolutions specifically. I hope the monopoly is ended as soon as possible and Canadians have a choice. I share this with you to be aware of it and report any similar incident. Obviously CAD microsolutions have never dealt with students otherwise the would have known what PhD stands for. Obviously the shouldn’t be given the last say in licensing in Canada. They are not competent for this role at least.

    Who on earth uses an expensive non perpetual license for commercial use when he knows it will end next year. It makes sense as a university thesis with the aim to master a tool before heading to market. The way of reasoning on this is absurd and if hypothetically even a student does that that should be considered a plus for Altium as they will eventually have that students as their future license buyer. Unfortunately, CAD microsolutions are not competent enough to understand Altium stand in the market and are working against it in Canada. It is a shame that they represent Altium.

    Soon I will build my circuit with Eagle and share it in Linkedin and Educational societies and repeat my story for everyone to know! May CAD microsolutions be ashamed on how they treated students and this particular student. All emails between me and CAD microsolutions are available for anyone interested.


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  21. Robert!

    Thanks this was super helpful article and the info you provided gave me good idea of capability. I have used Altium in the past, but I am trying to find selling points to transition from EAGLE to Altium over other packages.

    Everyone thanks for respond to analogzombie! His foolishness made you all add very helpful information to this comment section.


  22. Hello guys! I am so sorry to disappoint all the Altium fans… Guess what? The new Orcad Anniversary Edition 2015 has all the high speed line matching and realtime constraint indication now 🙂 Yes… which means… that this thread on the blog now is completely OBSOLETE 🙂 lol

    Not only it has that, but they added bunch of other features in new Orcad Anniversary 2015 which were before available only in $25k Allegro package. Now there is absolutely nothing what Altium can offer and Orcad cannot 🙂

    And for the same price as Altium? Orcad is a winner… plus given the fact that a lot of times they have some sort of campaigns where if you are lucky (as I was) you might even get it with 50% off.

    Given that there is no way any sane person would reward lazy and unprofessional CAD programmers making Altium (because this CAD actually sucks, its terribly slow and clunky… grid system sucks, component import from schematics is slow as hell, it crashes, its response time to specific commands is really like 1-2 seconds… – NO )



  23. Have used Cadence/OrCad and Altium for years as well as Mentor Graphics and several other tools. Nothing compares to the Cadence tools in functionality and productivity. Altium has a decent PCB tool but the remainder of the suite (schematic, simulation, cam, etc) tools are all substandard bundled throw-ins. The Cadence tools evolved into what they are today by purchasing best in class tools and incorporating them into their design flow. Altium’s PCB tool follows this strategy being a combination of the old PCad and Protel layout tools, but the rest of the suite is comprised of old orphaned low tier tools that are often less functional than freeware tools available today.


  24. I installed the trial version of Altium and tried to make contact with them to provide me with quote and answer a few questions about the software. I was looking for 40-50 user license as I teach at our local university. I mentioned tried to make contact – I emailed and called multiple times for the past 3 weeks and yet to receive any type of response from Altium. as a result I ended up giving up on them and contacted Orcad…what a difference in customer service. will be disqualifying Altium simply based on the lack of support and communication.


  25. Invaluable analysis – I was enlightened by the info , Does someone know if my company could possibly get a fillable IRS 1099-PATR example to fill out ?


    1. Greetings Fumiko . my work colleague accessed a template IRS 1099-PATR example at this place


  26. Hello Robert:

    In version 17.2 of OrCAD differential pair exploration is available in the Standard version and propagation delay rules are available on the Professional version. Does this change your opinion about OrCAD Standard/Professional as compared to Altium Designer?


    1. Hello, I think it can be now a little bit different situation. Some time ago I actually bought Orcad Professional, but have never had time to install it – so I am not sure what exactly now they offer. On the other side, Altium created CircuitStudio for 990USD – so this may influence decisions.


  27. Orcad 16x and the latest 17x is a very good PCB tool. Certainly Altium is good too but the
    one thing I hate about altium is that it feels like the old Protel DXP. Apples to apples, Orcad Schematic is better than Altium. Ever try do pin swapping in Altium schematic or even create symbols that have embedded pin swap attributes ?, its not good. Orcad handles Pin swapping much better. Over on the board side of things Orcad/Allegro is a far better PCB tool. For example the UI is seriously fast.
    Now all that glitters is not gold. Orcad PCB aka Allegro takes along time to understand and configure. Basically you have to configure things like libs, padstacks etc. Allegro’s biggest weakness is it does not have any real library management. Even the place Parts option in the PCB has no way of displaying Parts or Symbols as they call them in logical folders.
    Assume you have three folders, Resistors, Capacitors, IC’s. In these folders you have
    the various PCB Footprints. Over on the allegro parts placement all of these parts gets displayed as just one long list of pcb footprints. It is really pretty bad. Most low end PCB
    tools have way better Footprint management and footprint preview capabilities than
    Other things that take time to get used to is that Allegro is desperate for nested commands. For example Route a trace and select done. Well your done. You have to click click click with the mouse many times to do in some cases simple tasks. Its possible to automate a lot of the drudge with hot keys. Most designers go that road with Allegro.
    Putting these things aside, the true power of Orcad Allegro really shines when you want to do things like large complex boards or RF design. The shape editing tool in orcad/allegro
    is amazing for copper pours and copper pour editing. Large copper pours don’t bog down the display either.
    Someone mentioned the Autorouter in Allegro/Orcad. It is the old CCT router. As a autorouter goes it’s crap. Altium autorouter is better. I have never used a autorouted board so the autorouter is just a sales gimic for me. The CCT autorouter is really good if you route the traces manually. I would say that it is easier to route etch in the cct autorouter in most cases than in the actual allegro pcb editor.
    Thing is on a PCB tool is that one size does not fit all. Try before you buy. Good discussion here 🙂
    Cadence also offer the lite version of Orcad/Allegro. It has some limitations with respect to how many nets and parts you can use. Its worth getting though to learn how Orcad/Allegro
    works. You can create small schematics and boards with it for free. If you decide to buy in
    your designs and investment to learn the tool will not be lost.
    Thanks Scott.


    1. Hi Scott, I created this article some time ago. I added an update note. In my opinion, Allegro is the best PCB layout tool, Altium is better as the complete package (e.g. I love schematic browsing and component management). Recently I have got Cadence license and I am going to compare the software again. Let’s see what has been improved …..


    2. I guess you never saw the Mentor Graphics side of things. Much more powerful autorouter and simulation capabilities through HyperLynx


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